Wednesday, April 28, 2004

The coincidences are overwhelming. There are so many of them. Every day. I can so completely understand that you begin to see them as something else. Signs of a higher purpose. That we are just pieces on a board. In some glorious empyrean game. Of which we don't know the rules.

This is what I was thinking as I drove back home last night. My two women sleeping soundly in the back seat. I had driven into the city to surprise my wife. She thought she was in for a dreary, two-hour bus ride after she got off the plane. I knew, however, that the flight was delayed. She would have to take the next bus, which would add another two hours to the wait. Therefore, I knew I would not need to hurry up to catch her, as she jumped off the plane to catch the bus.

I drove leisurely. Stopped at a few of these cute, little, designated 'Rest areas'. Let my daughter roll around in the grass. Which incidentally has becom green now. Literally overnight. I tried to call the airline, to get a confirmed time of arrival, but couldn't get through. So I called a friend of mine, who went on the internet and found out that the flight was indeed not as late as I had thought it would be, but still late enough so that my wife would not be able to catch the bus.

We got to the airport a few minutes before the (first) bus was to be there. I was about to park in a short-term parking spot that I have used before, when a police officer appeared. He told me firmly that cars could no longer be parked there. Only buses. I should have parked 30 yards sooner. Behind the buses. When I said 'ok', and put the car in reverse, he lost his cool. 'Sir!', he shrieked. You can not just back the car to there, he told me, bewildered. I would have to drive out of the terminal, come back, and try again.

And so it started. This intricate chain of coincidences. Every one of which was needed. For what was about to happen. As I drove out of the terminal loop, I accidentally took the wrong turn, onto a newly constructed road. It lead me to a toll gate for a tunnel, which leads from the airport and into the city. There was no U-turn. There was no turning back. The toll was three dollars. I had one in my pocket. I panicked. Suddenly realizing that if my wife's plane had arrived earlier than I had thought, she just might be able to catch the bus, which was arriving as I sat in my car, panicking by that toll booth. She would then be gone by the time I had driven into the city and back again.

I scrambled to find loose change, to pay the toll, to get through the tunnel, to turn back to tha airport, to catch the bus, to make sure that my wife was not on it. I managed to find five dollars' worth of quarters. Enough to get out of here after I have picked her up, I thought. As I sped off into the tunnel, I grabbed the phone and called my friend again. I needed to know if the plane was at the gate already. His phone was turned off. I called another friend. She checked. No dice. For some reason, the airline's website doesn't update the estimated landing time to the actual landing time. So here was the dilemma: Should I turn around, as soon as I got out of the tunnel, and head back to the airport, betting that my wife had not caught the bus? Or should I keep on going, and wait for the bus at its next stop, in the city? In desperation, I called another friend of mine, who is not only amazingly resourceful, but also very quick on his toes. I knew he would save me. Somehow.

Within five seconds of answering the phone, he understood exactly what the situation was. He pulled up three different sources for the flight's arrival time – all with different results. One of them actually had just a blank, where the time was supposed to be. But none showed it as arriving really early. So as I finally emerged from the tunnel, I turned back to the airport. On arriving there, I parked in the new short-term parking. I took my daughter and strode into the terminal. I looked around for my wife, but did not see her. I did not worry, though, since I was convinced that she was, at best, just getting off the plane and starting to look for her luggage.

Then I saw the flight board.

It said that the plane had arrived over an hour ago. My heart sank. She is on the bus after all, I thought. I hurried out to the car again, trying to remain calm for my daughter, who thought all of this was really amusing. As I sped back towards the tunnel, I called my dear friend again. He was, of course, completely on top of things, and gave me the 1-800 number for the company that runs the bus that I was chasing. As I used my last dollars to pay the tunnel toll again, I called them. They were closed for the night. I called my ever-patient friend once more, and he turned out to have the phone number at the small end station where the bus was going to end up at. Ring-ring. The guy who aswered said he was just there out of coincidence, and that he was heading out the door. I should call the 1-800 number. I managed to get him to call the bus that I was chasing, and ask my wife to wait for me in the city, at the next stop.

As I pulled into the downtown bus station, I almost turned around right away. I just knew she was not on that bus. 'That's just silly', I thought. Grabbed the kid, walked down to the platforms and, sure enough, there was the bus but no wife. I must have looked pathetic, standing there with a perplexed look on my face and a grinning kid on my arm, as I slowly realized that I had been right to begin with. Of course she was still at the airport! I got some cash from the ATM and turned back.

The drive back to the airport was calmer. My friend must have thought I was even crazier then he had imagined, when I called him yet again to explain this lunacy. I felt sheepish. I even thought for a brief moment about not telling my wife about all of this, once I would finally find her. Nah. It is always more fun to tell her. I tell her everything. Literally. Which is strange. When you think about it. I mean, most everything, that would be enough. But everything? Anyways. I arrived back at the airport. Put my daughter in the stroller, which I had specifically packed for the occasion, took out the rose bouquet, and walked into the terminal. Again.

At first, I didn't find her. The arrival time had been updated. It had actually landed just after I originally 'drove by' the terminal. So she had to be there. Finally, I saw the back of a beautiful, crew-cut head, sitting on a tall, delicate frame. I slid the roses into her lap. As she turned around, she had tears in her eyes. I thought it was the flowers.

So this is what I was thinking about, as I drove back home last night. All these coincidences. Apparently random. When we got home, my wife and daughter crashed into bed. I went downstairs and into the kitchen. The answering machine was blinking. I pushed the button. It was my wife. Feeling thoroughly miserable. She had been hoping against hope that she would catch that damn bus. She had busted out of the terminal, only to find that it had already left and that she would have to wait two more hours just get on the next one. I hadn't realized how sad she was right then and there. This was the first time that she had been apart from our daughter since she was born.

How she must have wished, at precisely that moment, for some way to get her to our daughter and me. Some coincidence, maybe?